My daughters teach me what legato means today as they play piano. It’s smooth, connected playing as opposed to staccato which is short and disconnected. Translated, legato means “bound or tied together” and “staccato” means detached.
I love thinking of living legato where everything feels smooth and connected. I want everything to flow together because it’s composed this way, organized around God’s love and purpose in each little thing.
I’m struck by Dallas Willard’s quote about discipleship. He writes, “Discipleship is the process of becoming who Jesus would be if He were you.”
If He were you.
Instead of thinking about me becoming a different person–“more like Christ”–as I’ve always been taught, it’s actually about allowing Jesus to operate within my God-given personality and God-given tendencies. I like thinking of it like this!
I’m explaining to my daughters why I have to sear the meat before I cook it in the oven or crockpot. “It seals in the juices,” I say. “The delicious juice will try to escape but can’t; the seared edges will drive the juice back toward the center of the meat and keep it so tender. Some people think this doesn’t work and the juice escapes, but every time I sear the meat, it changes something inside of it. It’s better and more flavorful. Anyway, I like to think that the juices are locked in, even though some people debate about it.”
I find tears in my eyes. Yes, I’m crying over meat. It’s because I see it so clearly. All the difficult days, the hard mornings, the sickness, the disappointment, the rejection, or the loss was a searing that drove me into my own soul. The edges of my life were charred to keep me going back to that center where Jesus is. It’s the only way to keep me tender and in step with the Holy Spirit.
I recalled the day I crushed the stem of the lilac and sliced decisive, deep cuts into that strong bark. It was the only way the lilac could get to the lifesaving water; it was the cutting and crushing that saved her.
I recalled how I’ve asked so many people what drives them to Jesus and keeps them centered on Him. What is it that drives them back towards their own soul and the indwelling Christ? Sometimes, it’s beauty and God’s grandeur in nature, but more often than not, it’s suffering. It’s hardship. It’s weakness, loss, and rejection.
This is the searing that saves us.
In the words of my friend’s daughter: “Everything is a blessing. Because if it’s a bad thing, it makes you depend on Jesus more.” Everything can be a blessing if we see it this way.
I’ve had to call the Technology Help Desk for the English Department twice because of networked printer problems. Each time, the support person says in a calm voice over the phone, “May I take control of your computer now?”
I have no idea where the person actually is and what’s about to happen (and how do they do it!?), but I say, “Yes,” and then watch my computer do things I had no idea it could do. The kind professional has infiltrated and paralyzed me; I can’t do anything to my computer while she’s working. She is diagnosing problems, opening files, and doing all sorts of bizarre operations that I watch from my desk chair. It’s fun to see my computer doing things like this in response to an unseen hand.
I can’t do anything but sit back and watch, so I decide to eat lunch and organize some papers.
Of course I’m still present to answer questions and move some cables around when asked, but mostly, I’m letting someone else have all the control.
I think about how simple and easy the whole thing is and how, if I only let Him, God might have this kind of control over me. Infiltrate! Take over! Tell me what to do! Diagnose all my problems and connect everything that’s broken.
That’s what it’s like if I just let God have control. I learn from the technician that both users can’t have control at the same time. So I surrender more completely than ever.
Yes, take control! I’ll sit back and watch your power and wisdom at work.
Today I did things I normally don’t do. I tried to read piano music alongside one daughter. I tried to harmonize alongside my other daughter in church. I tried to knit a winter hat on an easy knitting loom with both my daughters who sat there, knitting away, while they sang along to Frank Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel So Young” with perfect harmonies.
I can’t read music! I’m probably tone deaf! And I cannot knit at all. And I don’t like Frank Sinatra, really. OK, maybe I do.
This is a strange life I’m living. The Good Lord gave me crafting, singing, piano playing children who like Frank Sinatra. And I’m failing in all categories, here: my music reading isn’t happening; my singing is still horrific; my hat has fallen apart.
But my oldest smiles with glee and says, “Mom, I’m so glad you’re being crafty with us!”
I’m here. I’m with you. I’m listening to Frank Sinatra right here with you. And I’ll try to cast on again even though I have no idea what that even means. And I’ll nod while you play and clap to the music when I cannot sing one note.
And that’s what motherhood means right now. I’m with you.
My daughter tells me that hot water freezes faster than cold water. This cannot be! I’ve heard the idea before, but I’ve never researched it. Why would I? It doesn’t make any sense, so therefore, I used to refute the claim that hot water freezes faster than cold water.
But it does. Hot water freezes faster than cold water. It’s true!
Scientists disagree about why, but the most respected opinion (according to my non-scientific and novice kind of research) is because of convection. There’s more movement. In other words, in hotter water, convection currents spread the ice crystals around faster and therefore allow for faster freezing.
I no longer look at my daughter like she’s crazy when she tells me to spread a tarp in the backyard and pour hot water on it to make her an ice skating rink faster.
Today I lug myself to my campus office with my arms full of books, papers, my purse, my lunch, and a bag dangling from my exhausted arms. Every object sits carefully balanced so one wrong move would collapse my tower of work items into a heap on the floor. I’m also wrapped up in an enormous coat, gloves, and a hat that’s slipping down my forehead. I’m also stomping down the hall in huge snow boots.
How will I ever find my office keys? How will I set even one of these things down?
I approach the office discouraged and then elated! I find my office mate has arrived before me. The door, wide open and cheerful, beckons me in with warmth and light and clear, easy access.
Such a simple thing, an open door when you weren’t expecting it and didn’t even know to hope for it! Such a small pleasure to have someone there before you, making a way for your own wild, disorganized self!
I do nothing but waltz right in.
I remember the Open Door and the Someone There Ahead of Me. I enter and drop every burden. I’m welcomed to light and warmth and ease here.
I remember today how fragile my physical life actually is in the face of blizzards. I’m outside of the two foot prediction for Virginia, but I think about all the people in that area.
Nothing we do can prevent it. We can’t negotiate with weather. We can’t assert our own importance or human rights. We can’t throw money or power at it to change its course.
Weather has power we can do nothing about.
It’s a reminder that my soul takes refuge in the Lord, and I entrust my life to Him. It’s a reminder that I am small, weak, and subject to even the environment. But I’m hidden in Christ as the storm brews.
Today I urge a student to realize she wants to use the verb “pioneered” on her résumé instead of the bland phrase, “help start something new.”
Pioneered feels so memorable, so beautiful.
I think of someone enduring hardship in uncharted territory to explore and to attempt something that no one else had the courage to try. I think of bravery. I think of new ideas, new research, and new development.
The pioneering spirit! I want it! I love it!
I begin to consider unknown regions of my own life and future. What would it take to move into uncharted regions and bring new, fresh thinking and development? Could I have a pioneering spirit as a wife, mother, writer, and teacher?
I feel a new excitement and a rising courage today.
I love reading the oldest psalm written by Moses, Psalm 90. My favorite verse lately is 14 where Moses writes, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
In the morning? Oh, but I immensely dislike the morning! I’m not a morning person at all!
I focus on the little verb “satisfy” because it seems so hard to grasp for a person like me who does not like the morning. How can someone wake up and feel satisfied so quickly with God’s unfailing love? What does one need to call to mind to know this, to feel this, to put her toes on the cold floor and realize the truth of it?
I pause in the bed and let the words sink in like I’m a dry sponge absorbing water.
I think of the default state of my heart that complains instead of sings, that sulks instead of rejoices. I wonder what Moses taught his own heart each morning and how he escaped his own despair. I find the secret in his very first sentence: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place. . .”
I’ve wondered for years what it meant that we have our “dwelling place” in God and that He’s also dwelling in us. If I remember, like Moses did, that my soul rests in this beautiful refuge and fortress, I begin to think that what satisfies is this being with God and enjoying His presence here in my soul. It seems no accident that the next psalm tells us “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust'” (Psalm 91:1). I can wake up here, in this truth, instead of in my own moody thoughts.
I leave the bed, but I’m in a different place. I’m in a refuge, a fortress, a heavenly dwelling.